Thursday, August 25, 2011

Most of my life, I've felt like a turkey living in a world full of ducks. A turkey who spent 20 years learning to get along with ducks, and did a reasonably good job of it. At the very least, even if she didn't ever look like a duck or feel like a duck, she got along reasonably well with the ducks most of the time. Then she moved to a country full of ... rabbits. So she studied the rabbits and learned to hop around and eat lettuce and do other rabbit-y things, and that was kind of fun sometimes, but it was also very hard, and she found herself longing to be around other birds again. Eventually she moved back to Duckland, but when she got there, she suddenly remembered that even though she is a bird, she has never been a duck and never will be a duck, and now she is not only not a duck, she is a turkey that sometimes acts and thinks like a rabbit.

So now she is trying to re-learn how to get along in Duckland, while still being true to her identity as a turkey and also not denying the fact that there are certain things about Rabbitland that she misses terribly. This is difficult. Most of the time my response is to try to act as much like a duck as possible. This is probably not the best response, but for the time being it's all I know how to do.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A poem by Emily Dickinson

I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod.
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels -- twice descending --
Reimbursed my store --
Burglar! Banker -- Father!
I am poor once more.


This poem has been on my mind a lot the last few months as I've grieved over leaving a home that was so dear to me. Yes, I am poor once more ... But God is also Banker, and he is Father, and he answers those who beg at his door.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

To God Be the Glory

You can’t spend too long in Africa, I think, without coming to the realization that the powers of darkness are very, very real. And yet as a Christian, you can’t spend too long in Africa without realizing that God’s power is far greater than the power of darkness.

A year ago, I prayed as a form of communion with God, but I rarely prayed for anything. I believed He could answer my prayers if He wanted to, but I figured He was pretty much going to do what He saw best, anyway.

But in the past year, I have seen some of the tragedy of human life in a way I have never seen it before. I have fallen to my knees in anguish, begging God to comfort, to heal, to rebuke, and to forgive. And I have seen God’s power change lives in miraculous and startling ways.

I have found that Christ’s love transcends all boundaries. I have found myself teaching God’s Word with passion that could never have originated with me. I have found that the Holy Spirit can and will guide my prayers, my words, and my actions.

A few days ago I was praying with a friend, one of the youth girls. I prayed against slanderous words that have been spoken about her. And I found myself praying, “God, if anyone wants to speak hurtful or untrue things, may that person find his or her lips stuck together!” I would never have had the courage to pray with such boldness before coming to Uganda. God has worked mightily on my heart in the past two years.

I say none of this to brag. I came to Uganda to be an English teacher. I’ve done that, and I’ve loved it. But so much of the work God had in mind for me, I never would have anticipated. To God be the glory.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sometimes teaching is really fun.

This week I gave my 1st-6th grade students the following writing prompt: Imagine you are a raindrop. Describe how you would feel as you fell through the air. Tell where you would land.

Here is a sampling of my kiddos' vivid imaginations:

I would be scared, if I was a raindrop. I would land in a curly dog. (Age 6)

I feel sick, can I feel happy? I will land right there, in the ocean. (Age 6)

I would be happy to be a raindrop but not happy if I connect with anthor one. (Age 7)

I am a ranedrop I get scarde a lot. I allwas fall in the same spot. I land in North America on a Dog. wat a good time I have. I am so happy! The end! (Age 8)

I would land on a dog’s smooth fur or I would land in sombody’s spikey hair (Age 8)

I’m a little raindrop, life like a rolacoster every Day. faling and riseing all the time. sadly it’s the dry season I can’t fall. I imagine falling to the water works. to me it’s like takeing a bath faling in puddles. Wgh! going thue clean sand and soap. finaly I evaporate. What a fun day. (Age 10)

If I was a rain drop, I’d probably faint on the way down. I’d feel way to cold as I fell out of my cloud. I would not be so keen to make a landing. I would like to fall into a puddle to be with my fellow rain drops. It would be nice to fall down into a rainforest so nobody could step on me. A big leaf would be ideal. I would love to evaporate calmly or be a refreshing drink to a squiril. (Age 11)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sometimes, People are Just People

A couple of weeks ago I visited my friend Mabel at her home. I’d mentioned a few weeks before that I’d like to visit her, but we never firmed up details and I didn’t have her phone number. But regardless of the lack of plans, I hopped on my beat-up bicycle with the chain that kept slipping off and rode the two miles to her neighborhood. I knew vaguely where she lived, but not exactly, so I asked people sitting outside if they could direct me to her house, and eventually I found her.

I thought about the differences between visiting a friend in America and visiting a friend here in Uganda. In the US, I would never dream of dropping in on a friend unannounced. Especially now that I don’t live in a college dorm. But here, a visitor is always a welcome interruption.

Mabel is a tall, friendly young lady of about 19 years old. She goes to school Monday through Friday, works on Saturday mornings, and sings in the choir at church on Sundays. She is always smiling. And when I arrived at her house that afternoon, she rushed to send a neighbor to the store to get me a soda and some matoke—plantains, which is the food for special occasions and special visitors.

Her mom, wearing a bright red and purple dress, a white head covering, and a brown apron, stepped away from her outdoor charcoal stove to shake my hand vigorously and tell me how welcome I was to her home. Neighborhood children, some relatives of Mabel’s, some just curious bystanders, came by to see if it was true that a mzungu woman was sitting on Mabel’s couch.

Once the stream of relatives and curious children had died down, our conversation turned to deeper matters. She told me about how her family had struggled to find money for school fees since her father had died the year before. We talked about the comfort the knowledge of God’s love brings during troubled times. I told her about my favorite Scripture, Matthew 6:33: “But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Then I asked her what things keep Ugandans from seeking God first, and her answer surprised me: Greed.

“Everywhere you go,” she said, “Africans just want money. They will lie and cheat and steal because they just want more and more money. And even if they get money, they still want more.”

Does that sound familiar?

Substitute the word “Americans” for “Africans.” It fits, doesn’t it?

What an interesting commentary on human nature. Wherever you go, in cultures as widely different as American and Ugandan, sometimes, people are just people.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Turn, turn, turn

It’s mid-November. The leaves on the trees have not turned red or orange or even brown. There’s no brisk bite to the air. No desire to walk a bit more quickly to get out of the chill. No need for blankets or scarves or wool sweaters. No looking up at the grey clouds and wondering if they might, just this once, contain snow.

I didn’t expect to miss seasons so much.

It’s not that Mbale doesn’t have seasons at all. We have the rainy season, and we have the dry season—perhaps more aptly called the slightly-less-rainy season. As December approaches, the rains are letting up a bit, and the sun seems to be burning a bit more brightly than it did last month. Sunscreen becomes a necessity instead of just a good idea.

It’s not that I miss the cold that much. No, I think what’s more troubling to me right now is that it’s mid-November, and I don’t know what happened to August, September, or October. Without the subtle transition of summer to fall, fall to winter, time seems to slip by unheeded. Or bound past in jack-rabbit leaps. I don’t know which—and that’s the problem. I didn’t realize how much I depended on crunchy leaves and hot chocolate and daffodils to divide life into orderly, manageable amounts of time.

The changing of seasons means not only the passage of a year, but the passage of a lifetime—the boundless energy of youthful spring, the summer and fall of adulthood, and finally the winter of old age, which then gives way for the next generation of spring chickens. But here, I feel ill at ease with this analogy. Things can’t age, can’t mature at their proper time, in the land of perpetual summer.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Love Uganda Days

My housemate Jennifer and I have what we call “We Love Uganda” days. These are the days when the following sorts of things happen:

-The power has been on a maximum of 12 hours a day for the last three weeks, off altogether for 3 days, and then – just two days after it came back on – the electrical company comes by to try to disconnect you for not paying a bill that you never received.

-You make macaroni and cheese (from America!) … only to find out that the milk you made it with has gone sour.

-Your dog dies of some mysterious tropical doggie illness.

-You come home from a bike ride muddy, sweaty, and greasy … only to find that the water has been turned off and you can’t take a shower.

On days like this, Jennifer and I sit down and tell each other why we love Uganda, because otherwise we might forget. Our reasons include:

-Teaching the youth class at church

-Walking up the road in the late afternoon and seeing the sun reflecting off the waterfalls on Mt. Wanale

-When two women just passing by the church on a Sunday morning feel compelled to come in

-Days when your students have “ah-HA!” moments

-Matoke (cooking bananas) and beans

-Playing cards all afternoon when the power is out

-Living two hours from the Nile

-Watching people from every tribe and nation come to learn more about Jesus

-Bicycle taxis

-Frogs that sing lullabies in muddle puddles in the back yard

-Children who laugh with you while you’re out running

-Friends who drop by unannounced during school holidays

We’ve had a lot of “We Love Uganda” days lately … it’s a good thing we love it here so much.